St Claude de la Colombière
Celebrated on February 15th
Claude was born in 1641 in Saint-Symphorien-d’Ozon, in the ancient Province of Dauphiné, the third child of the notary Bertrand de la Colombière and of Margaret Coindat. The family soon moved to the nearby city of Vienne, where he began his education, before attending the Jesuit school in Lyon .
In 1658, at the age of seventeen, Colombière entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Avignon.
Colombière was sent to Paris in 1666 to study theology at the College de Clermont. After completing his studies there, he was ordained a priest and initially assigned to teach at his former school in Lyon.
After professing the Fourth Vow of the Society at the end of the Tertianship on 2 February 1675, Colombière was appointed the Rector of the Jesuit community at Paray-le-Monial, where he also became the spiritual director of the nuns of the Monastery of the Visitation located next to the church. In this way he came to know Sr Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Alacoque had suffered greatly from the disbelief of the other nuns of her monastery, and felt isolated in her situation of having experienced a series of private revelations from Christ in which she felt she was being called to promote devotion to his Sacred Heart. When Colombière came to the community and began to hear the confessions of the nuns, she felt that she had finally found a priest in whom she could truly confide and opened up her heart to him. She later wrote that she saw that his spiritual gift “was that of bringing souls to God along the Gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us”. After speaking with her a number of times and after much prayer, as a result, he was convinced of the validity of her visions and became both her supporter and a zealous apostle of the devotion.
In 1676 Colombière was sent to England as preacher to Mary of Modena, then the Duchess of York, wife of the future King James II of England. He took up residence at the Court of St James, where he still observed all his religious duties as a member of the Society. He was also as active a preacher and confessor in England as he had been in France.
Colombière’s zeal and the English climate soon combined weakened his health and a pulmonary condition threatened to end his work in that country. In November 1678, while awaiting a recall to France, he was suddenly arrested and thrown into prison, denounced as being a part of the Popish Plot alleged by Titus Oates against the English throne. Caught up in the anti-Catholic hysteria which resulted from this alleged plot, he was confined in severe conditions at the King’s Bench Prison, where his fragile health took a turn for the worse.
Thanks to his position at the Royal Court and to the protection of the King of France, Louis XIV, whose subject he was, he escaped death but was expelled from Great Britain in 1679. He returned to France with his health ruined by his imprisonment.
The last two years of Colombière’s life were spent at Lyon . He died on 15 February 1682, as a result of a severe haemorrhage.